Movies: VeggieTales: It’s a Meaningful Life

When I saw that this VeggieTales episode is about contentment, my first thought was, Haven’t they done that already? Then I remembered that the emphasis in Madame Blueberry was about being thankful. Of course, being content with what you have (rather than wanting more) and being thankful for what you have are pretty closely linked.

The kind of contentment in It’s a Meaningful Life isn’t so much about what things you have, though, as what kind of life you have. I’m sure that the young children who usually enjoy VeggieTales will enjoy this one just as much, but it’s older children and adults that will appreciate the message behind the fun story.

Having performed in a musical production of It’s a Wonderful Life a few years ago (without having seen the movie at the time), I was particularly interested in how VeggieTales would adapt the story. Rather than seeing what life would be like had he never been born, Stewart (played by Larry the Cucumber) sees what life would be like if he had caught the football instead of being injured in an important game, and gone on to become a famous football star instead of a husband and father.

The results for the town of Rockwell without Stewart (who as a teenager was just waiting to leave town and play pro football) are similar as for Bedford Falls without George Bailey. No one coaching the children (both in football and life), and no one to adopt a little girl from an orphanage. But instead of simply not existing, Stewart is depicted as having become arrogant and greedy due to his fame as a great football player.

It’s true that many famous people do become arrogant. And it’s possible that without the presence of a wife and children to draw Stewart’s energies toward helping others instead of fulfilling his own desires, he might have become more self-centered. But would different circumstances really have made him such a different person?

After the movie, my 11-year-old son asked me what kind of “what-ifs” I have wondered about. As I explained to him, I really don’t bother to think about what if I had done this or that differently, because it’s meaningless. There’s no way to know what might have been, which would no doubt contain both good and bad compared to what is. I’m who I am today because of all the past experiences, and while the person I might have been might be better in some ways, it would be someone different, not me as I know myself now.

I won’t say I never have regrets. There are certainly decisions I regret having made, but because they were wrong, not because of the circumstances that resulted. There are things that happened to me that I would have prevented if I could have, but having experienced them I can’t find it in me to wish them “un-happened” because they are a part of me now.

The one area I do struggle with is the current state of our finances, due in part to circumstances but largely due to poor decisions made years ago (relying too much on debt and too little on savings). It’s hard to think how better money management could have resulted in anything being worse for us or for anyone else, or how we have benefited from the results of our past mistakes other than finally learning better money management.

The movie talks about God having a plan for our lives, even when it doesn’t seem to be going the way we would like. That’s fine for things that happen to us, but I have trouble using that same line of thinking when it is my own choices that caused my life to go a certain way. God can always bring good out of a bad situation, whether we got there because of our own choices or as a result of someone else’s actions. But I find it much easier to find comfort in that fact when it wasn’t my own fault that I got into a mess.

One thing I definitely can agree on with the makers of this movie – being a parent and spouse certainly makes life more meaningful that any of the fame I wished for when I was younger. Even people who write books that are read by and influence millions of people probably have their biggest impact among the people in their own home and neighborhood.

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